From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Protection and sustainability of mangroves has been noted as a viable way of tackling the issue of global warming. Scientifically, it has been proved that mangroves absorb carbon, thereby promote a clean environment.In this exclusive interview with Rev Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, (HOMEF) he stressed the need for communities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria to protect its mangroves system, which he noted will help tackle global warming.
Bassey who spoke with our correspondent during his visit to some of the communities in Rivers state ahead of HOMEF project on shifting power lines, said if the mangroves are protected from destruction, people of the region will experience better economic relationship environment.
He added that if more focus is given to the sustainability of the mangroves and ensuring a clean shore, a shift from the fossil fuel to renewable energy will materialize at ease.
The HOMEF boss explained that shifting power lines means Nigeria moving away from fossil fuel to renewable and clean energy. He regretted that Nigeria which is known for its biggest mangroves has suffered mangrove degradation as a result of oil pollution on the sea and land from activities of multinationals, especially in the Niger Delta area.
According to Rev Bassey “There is a new project that HOMEF is working on and is about Shifting the Power Lines. We are looking at how to build the grassroot power that will place the grassroot as a major player in the power equation.
“Another way we look at shifting power lines is to see what people think and what can be done moving this nation away from dirty energy to renewable energy. We are shifting the power at two levels: at the people’s level and the energy level. And we are using communities that have very important resources that are being damaged by oil exploitation in the Niger Delta.
“Nigeria used to have one of the biggest mangrove forests in the world of course in Africa. But now, many years of oil exploitation of canalization, also as search for firewood including oil pollution has damaged much of our mangroves.
“Two communities we visited stands at opposite side on how to manage mangroves that we found so far, one at Kono community in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State. They are actually protecting their mangroves forest, is such a beautiful place and you would not believe you are seeing this in the Niger Delta.
“The mangroves at Kono are exquisite. You want to stay there if you go, the river, the creek is clean, is not contaminated with the oil pollution and the mangroves are very healthy.
“Healthy mangroves help to protect shore lines to against emulsion. They provide the right atmosphere for fish to breed and for the young fish to grow and a lot of fish across the Atlantic Ocean they used to come to Niger Delta to breed. But now when they come they find pollution everywhere and they either die or go back but if any of them managed to get to Kono they will find a safe place to breed there.
“I also found out that the fisher folks in Kono will no longer travel far to get fish which really show that if the natural environment is protected, our people will have very viable livelihood to feed better, people will be healthier, people will be happier because they see green area everywhere”.
Speaking further on disposal of waste in the shores and creeks of the nation, the international environmentalist disclosed “Then if you go to Bundu, the other side closer to Port Harcourt near the prisons you will find that on the city side of Bundu what we have are a lot of plastic waste, a lot of waste of oil that the tide brings and everywhere, is so terrible. When you look at the kind of the waste and you will know is not from the community, is from the richer part of Port Harcourt where the people can afford to buy expensive things and throw them into the gutter, they end up at the creeks and the tide flush them to this place. It is horrible.
“But across the creek you will see remnant of mangroves and a bit far away from the community you can see some healthy mangroves. So we want to look at how the degraded mangroves can be protected, can be restored and how people can have better economic relationships with their environment.
For instance, in Bundu area you can find piles of firewood from the mangroves and which is very good source of firewood but they should not do this in the way it kills the mangrove.
“Mangroves absorbs much more carbon than other trees, so protecting our mangroves system will not only protect the land, it will help to tackle global warming. There is so much way communities can influence power. They can influence power interms of getting more livable climate.
“We intend to support communities to sustain their mangroves and to replenish those one they have lost. When this happens and we campaign against destruction, against dependence on fossil fuel, then government should recognize the efforts of the communities and give them renewable energy so that without depending on the national grid they can actually light up this nation.
“There is no reason why the entire coastal of the nation should not be neat, why we should only depend on gas flare to spot Niger Delta to satellite images. We could have solar light across the nation if communities invest in maintaining their environment, engaging in sustainable economic to meet their livelihood needs. Communities would be able to tap into new and renewable energy with public support”, HOMEF boss added.